China has a documented history of banning various popular websites to keep its people from ‘viewing harmful information’.
YouTube, Google, and CNN have been banned for some time, but with the recent riots in Urumqui, Facebook and Twitter were also banned in what seems like an an effort to keep reports of the riots from getting out.
Now there are reports coming in from some Chinese Diggers, like Tony, that they are no longer able to submit content to the popular social news site Digg. Although they are not receiving the Green Dam messages or the common ‘website not available’ errors, they are unable to use the submission process.
When attempting to submit content, the process simply hangs for hours on end, never completing or allowing the submission to occur.
Digg has not been available to confirm or deny whether any submissions are making it into the system from China, and I will make sure to update this post when I get word from them.
I was able to get the following information from Jen Burton at Digg about the possible problem, although they are still looking into the issue to determine the true cause:
“I believe this situation is likely a combination of two factors: occasionally, the Chinese government blocks some sites which means we can’t crawl it as part of our submission process & we’re still making tweaks to our new dupe detection engine which may have a bug related to the time out process when digging through a submission.”
Note that the above explanation makes some sense, but I have to wonder that anyone submitting content that is banned, would have a hard time visiting the banned page to even begin the submission process. There definitely appears to be something more to this issue.
China has long desired the ability to completely censor the internet and has taken steps to require the installation of the Green Dam, a website filtering software, on all computers sold after July 1, 2009.
Although the software claims to allow parents to set which sites, or types of sites, are blocked, research at the University of Michigan found that it was also censoring many sites that used the phrase ‘Falun Gong’, a religious movement the Chinese has branded as a cult, and many other terms it would like to censor.
When visiting a potentially ‘unhealthy’ site, the user would be presented this message, which requires a password to view.
Although it is unfortunate that China has decided to ban so many news related sites, it is clear that they have learned the usefulness of sites like Digg, Twitter, and Facebook for getting the message visible to the whole world.